We have a romantic idea of Muslims’ unity.
How many times have you heard ‘if only Muslims were united’?
This despaired call vanishes as soon as it raises, not finding any receptive ears.
We try to make Muslims feel guilty for their failure to unify like their brothers and sisters of the past.
And of course, Muslims respond to this call by ignoring it.
How can it be otherwise?
We put unity on a pedestal and we stay there, staring at it, not knowing how to reach it.
If I ask Muslims for a show of hands: who is interested in unity???
I bet many Muslims will raise their hands.
This is the paradox of Muslims’ unity. Many of us want it but we don’t seem able to achieve it.
Why is that?
Misconceptions About Muslims’ Unity
From 0 to 10, how much would you score Muslims’ unity?
No one will ever say 10.
In giving a score, you probably thought about all the differences that separate Muslims.
This is a fundamental misconception–that because we have differences, we can’t be unified.
Differences in a matter of faith existed before Islam, during Islam, and will continue to exist until the end of time.
So differences are not a valid measure of Muslims’ unity.
When we confuse unity with unanimity, we give unity no chance to exist.
For example, a family can be united without its members agreeing on everything.
The second misconception is viewing unity as the beginning of a process, not the end of it.
We tend to think that Muslims should unit first, then they can collectively act on solving their problems.
This is similar to saying: I have this land and I want to reap fruits. But I don’t want to labor the soil, plant a seed, or water the trees. I want to eat fruits by wishing hard!
Unity is the end of the process, not the beginning of it.
By thinking the opposite, we’re are defying all the natural laws that rule this world.
Why Is It Hard To Unite?
Let’s take this gigantic 1.8 billion Muslims and randomly pick two of them. How easy is it for them to join forces?
To make it simpler, let’s put faith on the side for a second.
These two individuals are complex by definition. They have different personalities, perceptions, and preferences.
For these two individuals to unite, they need to have shared interests.
From a psychological perspective, shared interests reduce our complexity to each other.
Diversity in the workplace is a good example of this.
People of different personalities, races, ethnicities, genders, religions, or nationalities, are able to work together towards a common goal.
The common goal acts as a unifier. It creates a safe and predictable space for working together.
Now, when you add Islam to the equation (which by the way is supposed to reduce frictions between people by aiming for a higher purpose), things become worse.
Firstly, we tend to think that, once we are a Muslim, we have no more individuality.
Somehow, we’re supposed to be identical.
Secondly, we emphasize the small things in Islam and we leave behind the fundamental ones that unite.
How Is Our Connection to Allah?
If we had to summarize the mission of Muhammad (PBUH), it would be this: removing the obstacles that stand between the people and Allah so they can connect to Him.
And the obstacles can be tangible like idols, or intangible like arrogance.
The quality of this connection defines how an individual behaves:
“Then We granted the Book to those We have chosen from Our servants. Some of them wrong themselves, some follow a middle course, and some are foremost in good deeds by Allah’s Will. That is truly the greatest bounty.” [Quran 35:32]
So if we really want unity, the best place to start from is our connection to Allah:
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah and do not be divided. Remember Allah’s favour upon you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts, so you—by His grace—became brothers.” [Quran 3:103]
There’s a first step that each Muslim must go through–it’s the individual journey towards Allah.
Once they develop God-consciousness, the second step is to create cohesion between all these different individuals.
And the way to unlock this collective blessing of unity is to hold on to the rope, meaning Quran.
The Quran is the unifier. It synchronizes the minds for a higher purpose and brings the hearts together.
Islands and Bridges
Saying things like “if only Muslims were united” is useless because it’s too vague.
We need to be more specific.
Uniting around what?
Imagine you’re looking for a job. You start searching on a website and notice the title of a position that might match your capabilities.
But when you click on it, there’s no description, duties, or requirements.
Would you apply for this job?
I bet not. You need more information to know what you’re embarking on.
The same works for unity.
As Muslims, we have many common issues, either locally or remotely.
To solve these problems, we need to signal ourselves to other Muslims with a clear project in hand.
We can’t unify 1.8 billion Muslims at once. But it’s possible to unify few Muslims around meaningful projects.
With a genuine interest in a project and complementary skills, few Muslims can have far more impact than many Muslims who have none of the two.
By having the right Muslim on the right project, their contribution is maximized.
This way, we create clusters of Muslims working on a particular issue that matters to them.
Only then we can think about unity on a larger scale.
It is easier to build a bridge between two islands when the islands exist!
Unity Is a Slow Process
From the first word revealed to the conquest of Mecca, Islam spreads following something similar to the technology adoption lifecycle.
When you have a disruptive idea, not everyone will adopt it immediately.
The cycle of adoption over time goes from the extremely enthusiastic to the extremely skeptical:
-Innovators (2.5%): The very first adopters. People like Khadija, Ali, and Abu Bar
-Early Adopters (13.5%): They see the potential of the disruptive idea. These are the Meccans who adopted Islam before the migration.
-Early Majority (34%): They adopt an idea if it solves their problem. These are the people of Medina who welcomed the Prophet (PBUH).
-Late Majority (34%): These adopt an idea when they see it working for others. These are the ones accepting Islam at the conquest of Mecca.
-Laggards (16%): They won’t adopt an idea until they have no choice. These are the ones resisting change even though the majority adopted Islam.
Unity follows a similar lifecycle:
-First: Few will take the risk to unite.
-Second: Some will see the potential of unity.
-Third: A group will see unity as the solution to their problems.
-Fourth: As unity starts showing results, another group will join the movement.
-Fifth: The skeptics among us will have no other choice than to unite.
Final Thoughts on Unity
The Quran is precise in its language.
It doesn’t say to not have differences.
Just like the nations before us, we will have differences. It’s normal.
However, Allah commands us to not divide.
It’s a command similar to our fundamentals obligations and prohibitions.
In my previous article, I wrote about the blindness of the heart.
Divisions fall into this category.
When people divide and cut themselves from the community, creating factions and groups, they just put their needs above the command of Allah.
In a disciplined army, no group leaves the fighting forces to do their own thing. If they do so, they create a breach that puts everybody else in danger.
This attitude is only possible when God-consciousness is weak or absent.
We can invoke all excuses, Allah left us none when it comes to division:
“And do not be like those who became divided and differed after clear proofs had come to them. It is they who will suffer a tremendous punishment.” [Quran 3:105]
Article posted the 19 June 2021
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